WASHINGTON — The U.S. Green Building Council in mid-February released its ranking of the Top 10 States for LEED, the world’s most widely used and recognized green building rating system. The list highlights the regions around the country that are at the forefront of sustainable building design and transformation.

“The list of the Top 10 States for LEED is a continuing indicator of the widespread recognition of our national imperative to create healthier, high-performing buildings that are better for the environment as well as the people who use them every day,” said Rick Fedrizzi, president, CEO and founding chair, USGBC. “As the economy recovers, green buildings continue to provide for jobs at every professional level and skill set from carpenters to architects. I congratulate everyone in these states whose contributions to resources saved, toxins eliminated, greenhouse gases avoided and human health enhanced help guarantee a prosperous future for our planet and the people who call it home.”

The per-capita list is based on 2010 U.S. Census data and includes commercial and institutional green building projects that were certified throughout 2013. Among states, Illinois moved into the top position for LEED, certifying 171 projects representing 2.29-sq.ft. of LEED space per resident.

“Both the public and private sectors in Illinois recognize that long-term investments in 21st century infrastructure should be done in ways that reduce energy consumption and protect the environment,” said Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn. “Illinois is proud to be the nation’s green buildings leader, and we are proof that a smaller environmental footprint can help us step toward energy independence.”    

The mid-Atlantic region reigned in 2013 with Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia all topping the list. The District of Columbia had 106 LEED-certified projects representing 32.45-sq.ft. of space per resident. Maryland and Virginia followed Illinois in the second and third positions, respectively, certifying 2.20 and 2.11 square feet of LEED space per resident in 2013.

Newcomers to the top 10 states list from 2012 include:

  • Oregon, which certified 47 projects representing 1.83-sq.ft. per resident in 2013;
  • North Carolina, with 1.80-sq.ft. per resident;
  • Hawaii, with 1.71-sq.ft. per resident; and
  • Minnesota, with 1.55-sq.ft. per resident.

New York and California, two of the most populous states in the nation, tied for fifth place, with each certifying 1.95-sq.ft. of space per resident in 2013.

USGBC calculates the list using per-capita figures as a measure of the human element of green building, allowing for a fair comparison of the level of green building taking place among states with significant differences in population and, accordingly, number of overall buildings.

Reflecting the continued trend of LEED existing buildings outpacing their newly built counterparts, in 2013 the LEED for Building Operations and Maintenance rating system accounted for 48% of total square footage certified in these states. This compares to 43% of square footage certified under LEED for Building Design and Construction and 9% certified under LEED for Interior Design and Construction.

Collectively, 1,777 commercial and institutional projects became LEED certified within the top 10 states in 2013, representing 226.8 million square feet of real estate. Worldwide, 4,642 projects were certified in 2013, representing 596.8 million square feet.

Cumulatively, more than 20,000 projects representing 2.9 billion square feet of space have been LEED-certified worldwide, with another 37,000 projects representing 7.6 billion square feet in the pipeline for certification. USGBC launched LEED v4, the newest version of the rating system, in the fall of 2013. McGraw-Hill Construction projects the entire green building industry could be worth up to $248 billion in the U.S. by 2016. LEED v4 features new market sector adaptations for data centers, warehouses and distribution centers, hospitality, existing schools, existing retail, and midrise residential projects.